Thank you, everybody!
"Clint." Delores held out her hands when she saw him. "I guess you're mine for a few days?"
"Yeah." Clint was tired and just wanted to crawl into bed. "It was either this or not get out of Medical on the Helicarrier."
"Well, I'm glad to have you here. Do you want to go get some rest, or can I take you to meet Marlene's baby?" Delores carefully looked Clint over. She frowned.
"I need to check in with Medical first and then I want to try taking a nap." Clint shifted his bag. "I'll take you out for dinner?"
"That works. Shoo." Gently pushing Clint towards the elevator, Delores turned towards Coulson. "What exactly happened?"
"Pure bad luck and stubbornness. Part of his support system died in that Quinjet crash last March, and he's been avoiding Medical ever since, so him being told that he was going to be stuck there?" Coulson sighed. "I'm just glad that this didn't go on for more than a few days, to be honest. He wasn't sleeping and the doctor was being stubborn."
"Really." Delores glanced at her watch. Nodding at the door, she continued, "I want some coffee."
Coulson waited to talk until they were settled at the diner with coffee. "I wasn't able to be around and be the support that he probably needed, because I was working on things that are outside his clearance level." He laughed under his breath. "Although I think he did need this sort of wake-up call, I just wish it had been under better circumstances."
"And what sort of wake-up call is that?" Delores relaxed into her seat.
"He knows that things don't always go his way, but this is the first time that it has happened in Medical and not Psych. Now, he doesn't like going to Psych and I can't blame him, but Jim Beeks does seem to know what he's doing and Clint's made immense strides in, well, everything. You can't really see much of the recruit in him anymore." Sighing, he shook his head. "Granted, Doctor James was also in the wrong by being so stubborn, but in the end it will probably end up being the best for everybody."
"What exactly happened?"
"Complete and total string of bad luck. He was captured." Coulson stared down at the table. "They used him in an experiment, and like everybody else that the drugs were tried on, he had a bad reaction that looks like he was suddenly allergic to something. The first time it happened he ended up with a breathing tube for a few hours, the second time was at school and I'm just happy that I was there. It's predictable, but…" he trailed off. "Everybody else who received that drug died."
"And that would explain just why he looks so stressed. Phil, he doesn't need to be here, he needs a vacation! Someplace where he can relax, not, not, not put up with a bunch of raw recruits!"
"That's not possible." Coulson sharply said. "Because Medical won't let him, and where would he go?"
"My daughter's house," Delores replied tartly. "I'm sure that June would be willing, and her husband is a doctor. Plus, the kids love him. He wouldn't be underfoot."
"Not enough supervision, believe it or not." Coulson suddenly felt tired. "And the other problem is that I can't take the time to keep an eye on him. Here, I don't have to worry about it, since there are several people that will be around to sit on him if needed."
Shaking her head, Delores took a long drink of coffee before staring at the slice of cake sitting in front of her. "I see. Thank you for letting me help."
"You'd yell at both of us if you weren't asked."
"You know that I'm always willing to help out, if I can." Delores sighed. "So what do I really need to do?"
"Just…be there for him." Coulson shrugged helplessly. "See if you can get him feeling better, because I can't right now. I ended up yelling at him yesterday, which I don't think helped."
"He is a grown man, Phil. There really isn't much you can do, and you only yell at him with reason. He knows that, and I'm sure that he knows that you only did it out of concern." Delores thought for a second. "You know what? I'll have Marlene distract him with Abby. Granted, she's not doing much right now, but…"
"But he'll be fascinated with her, I'm sure." Coulson nodded, relieved that Delores was taking charge. "And being trusted with a baby might help get him going again. Not to mention, it'll mean that he'll have supervision in case he starts having problems again."
"Maybe. I do need to talk with Marlene first, however, make sure that she's okay with it." Delores finished her coffee. "I think that if I'm willing to be in the area, she will be. Now, I need to get back; the latest batch of recruits are due to arrive soon. Would you like to help?"
Coulson shuddered as he stood up. "Thank you, but no. I'm going to see if Clint really did make it to Medical or if he's holed up in his room, and then I need to get going."
Clint stared in amazement at the baby in Marlene's arms. "She's…tiny."
"She's a baby, and believe me, she's plenty big." Marlene glanced at Delores. When the older woman nodded, Marlene smirked. "Here, you can hold her."
"I, what?" Clint looked at the two women. "Hold her?"
"That's what I said. Here." Marlene held Abby out. "You won't let her fall. I trust you."
"But," Clint didn't move. "What if-"
Delores laughed. "Arm like this, other arm like that, baby goes here." She physically adjusted Clint's arms and Marlene carefully placed Abby in them. Wide-eyed, Clint quickly pulled her in closer to his chest, the way he'd seen other people do. "See? Not that bad, is it?"
"Wow." Clint barely breathed. "She's really light, too."
"Well," Marlene sniffed, "Not all of us are big strong archers. She can get pretty damned heavy when I have to keep holding her."
Clint didn't stop staring down at the baby. Abby snuffled lightly and turned her head towards Clint's chest. For the first time since Easter, Clint realized that he felt happy, and couldn't hold back his grin. "Wow."
"Breathe, Clint." Delores waved a hand in front of Clint's face. "See? Not nearly as bad as you thought it would be, is it?" She glanced at Marlene. "I think she broke him."
Clint watched as Abby yawned and looked up at him. "Why're her eyes blue?"
"Babies are born with blue eyes, they'll change later." Marlene looked at Delores with a smile. "If you're curious, I still have some information that the hospital gave me. It has all sorts of…interesting pictures."
"Oh." Clint hadn't stopped staring at Abby. "Maybe later." He stiffened as she started to cry. "Um?"
Marlene laughed. "She's probably hungry; it was getting to be that time of day. Want to feed her?"
"Yes, you." Taking the baby back, Marlene nodded at a chair. "Sit down, it's much easier."
"And you won't have to worry about balancing a baby and a bottle," Delores added. "I've fed seven babies, Clint, and sitting down is always easier."
"Oh." Clint slowly sat down. "Yeah." He let Delores talk him through the best way to give a baby a bottle and was quickly engrossed watching Abby eat.
"You were right," Marlene murmured. "I was going off of Jim's report and what you told me; I wasn't completely sure that a baby would knock him out of his reported funk. But he's smiling, and it looks real."
"Not that we'd be able to tell completely," Delores murmured back. "He's good at faking things. Do you mind if she turns into, well, a reward? He follows all orders and you'll let him spend time with her?"
Marlene nodded. "Only if at least one of us is nearby, though. I trust him, but I don't trust him to be able to handle situations that may come up. I don't feel comfortable handling some of the things that have come up, and I've had time to prepare!"
"And she's your first child. You don't want to put her down, do you?"
Marlene's laugh made Clint glance over curiously. "No, not really, although once she becomes more mobile I think I'll be more willing. Clint, here. I think she's hit her stopping point, and this is where she's been giving me problems."
"Okay." Clint watched as Marlene picked Abby up off his lap. "Um, can I visit her again?"
Marlene looked at Clint carefully. "Will you be willing to help me out with a few other things?"
Clint nodded. "Yeah. Dinner?"
"Dangerous of you, Clint, to just agree to something with no restrictions." Delores shook her head with a small smile. "I figure we can head over to Chinatown? Does that sound good?"
Clint couldn't decide what he hated more: the recruits or sitting in a chair in Medical. Snarling at another recruit who was staring at him, he slouched lower and glared at the floor. Nobody had told him that a brand new group of recruits had arrived and were being ferried through Medical and Psych. He wasn't able to stay in a treatment room, so the nurse had shoved him into the waiting area with instructions to stay in a seat and give a shout if he was having any problems like a cough, trouble breathing, or sudden death.
Shifting his gaze to the clock on the wall, Clint wondered just how much trouble he'd be in if he vanished. Aware of somebody standing near him, he scowled. "Go away."
"Nope." Marlene's cheerful voice had Clint looking over at her balefully.
He flushed in embarrassment when she paled and took a step back. "Um, sorry," he mumbled. "Haven't figured out how to be mad and not look like I'm about to kill people."
"Don't worry about it." Marlene moved closer, carefully shifting a baby carrier from one hand to the other. "I'm just not used to those sorts of looks; I deal with the raw recruits, after all. I'm better with homesickness and culture shock. But anyways. How much longer are you here?"
Clint shrugged. "Until they decide that I'm not going to die." He jerked a thumb at door to the exam room. "Probably another hour or two; I've been here for three already and haven't had a problem outside of my arm and shoulder itching and my throat feeling dry."
"Good!" Marlene beamed at him. "You can babysit; I have to meet with somebody who is deathly afraid of babies. Do you want her in her carrier or would you like to hold her?"
"Hold her?" Clint felt a smile force its way out. "Please?"
"Get comfy, then." Marlene held back her giggle at the hopeful look on Clint's face. "Best thing to do is just relax and let her head rest on your shoulder. She'll hopefully fall asleep and stay asleep the entire time, and Jim and I have both found that that position is the most comfortable for everybody." Kneeling down and gently lifting Abby out, she helped Clint get comfortable. "And the recruits are required to stay seated unless they're specifically called by name. They might stare, but it looks like they're staring already."
"Yeah." Clint glanced down at the top of Abby's head. "Until I glare at 'em."
"Remember, Clint." Marlene lightly rubbed Abby's back as she fussed quietly. "They're recruits. You're not, which means that they have to obey your orders. Okay. I'll be back in a little bit; if trouble hits tell one of them to come and get me. My office is right there." She pointed at a door. "Thank you again."
"Yeah." Clint nodded, bringing his free hand up to rest on Abby's back. "No problem." As Marlene gave the two of them another look and moved away, he slouched lower in his chair. "Didn't even have to think about it," he whispered to Abby. "Kids are way easier than adults. You're honest and don't ask for much." Catching the eye of a recruit who was gaping at the sight of Clint and the baby, he scowled. He was through being nice, and settled in to think of things that he could do to them. "Takeout," he muttered. "Go get some really good takeout and eat it in front of them all. Show 'em all up on the range." Shifting experimentally, he grinned. "Remind me to ask the doc about what I can do now, Abby," he whispered, smile growing wider as he caught the nervous looks of the recruits. "And talk to the guys at the range."
Marlene's hands itched for a camera when she finally emerged from her office. Clint had shifted Abby so that her head was tucked under his chin, and he had somehow slouched down in the chair and closed his eyes. He actually looked quite a bit like Jim in how he was sitting, she mused as she leaned against the wall. Glancing around she couldn't hold back her laugh – not a single recruit was looking in his direction, and some of them had physically turned in their seats so as to avoid looking at that part of the room. "Clint?" She cautiously called out, moving closer.
"Yeah?" Clint was enjoying the idea that he was being trusted to take care of Abby. The baby was a warm weight on his chest, which combined with her steady breathing had lulled him into relaxing.
Relieved that he hadn't fallen asleep, Marlene moved to sit down next to him. "How is it going?"
Clint slightly lifted one shoulder. "She's slept most of the time, if that's what you're asking. Didn't even wake up when they came to check on me and give me some more Benadryl. They said I can leave whenever, though."
"Good, but not what I was asking." Marlene reached out and lightly touched Abby's back. "How are you doing?"
Clint glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. "You're a recruit shrink. Not Beeks. Well, you're a Beeks but you know what I mean."
Tilting her head curiously, Marlene slowly nodded. "And I'm not asking as a shrink. Because if I was, then I'd have to take notes and keep records and that just gives me a headache. No, I'm asking as the mother of the child that you're currently holding and as somebody who is simply curious. Maybe as a friend?"
"Oh." Clint didn't say anything for a minute. "Better, now." His lips twisted into a bitter smile. "Most of this past week sucked. People just yelled and gave me grief and nobody actually asked me what was wrong or listened to me." He took a careful breath. "It's just…I can't stand Medical. I'm not scared or anything like that, but I don't like it there and it's just depressing ever since Darla died. But getting away from the Helicarrier helped." He glanced at Marlene. "You trusting me with Abby does, too."
"I'm glad that you can be trusted." Marlene closed her eyes and leaned her head back. "Why don't you like Medical on the Helicarrier, again?"
Clint glanced around at the recruits. "First time I was there, they sat on me. And then they didn't apologize. And I get bored and hate being stuck in a room or one area for as long as they want me there."
"They sat on you?" Marlene sat up and stared at Clint. "Why?"
"Dunno." Clint carefully shrugged, staring down at Abby. "Probably because I was being an ass and trying to get out and I made a shrink cry because she had decided that she'd take over for Beeks. I'd gotten my neck cut up kinda badly, and the medicine that I had to take really hit me hard and I just wanted my own bed in my own room. It still can; what most people would call a normal dose of morphine can knock me out for hours sometimes. And that's why I got sent here and not someplace else, because Coulson knew that Delores would make sure I was showing up here if I started having problems again."
"Oh." Marlene leaned back in her chair again, thinking. "Well, I for one am indeed glad that you're here, since you're good with Abby."
"Like kids," Clint whispered. "They're easy to understand and just so…innocent. Not like me. And you can see that they've got real futures and parents that love them."
"Ah." Reluctantly, Marlene stood up. "Well, let me reclaim your heating pad, so you can go do whatever it is you need to do, o truly innocent one."
Clint slowly lowered one arm and let Marlene pick Abby up off his chest. Sitting up, he pressed a hand to the back of his neck and winced. "Ow. Stiff. But yeah, I was gonna figure out ways to scare and annoy them." He tilted his head towards the rest of the room. "They were staring too much."
"Baby." Marlene pointed at Abby, now in her carrier. "Young man." She pointed at Clint. "Their logic, the only reason that somebody that looks like you and is your age would be holding a baby is if he's the child's father. Especially considering how relaxed and comfortable you looked."
"Ew. No." Clint quickly shook his head. "Don't want kids. Ever. I'd suck as a dad." He smiled slightly. "I'm an honorary uncle for Delores' grandkids though, which is weird enough."
"Well, congratulations, you've got yourself another niece. She hasn't been this relaxed around people for a while, and she not only didn't cry, she slept for you." Marlene glanced at her watch. "We shall see you later." She raised her voice and turned to the rest of the room. "I'm looking for a Mister James Lee!" Glancing back at Clint, she nodded with a wicked grin. "I might have some ideas to pass along to you for pranks, too. I'll write them down. Ah, Mister Lee. Welcome. Go on in and have a seat in the blue chair, please."
"Hey, Marlene?" Clint reached out and grabbed her sleeve. When she turned around, he rushed on. "You don't think I'm crazy or anything like that? To think the way I do?"
"Well," Marlene drawled, "My non-shrink side says that you're you. Do you want to know the shrink side?" At Clint's nod, she leaned closer and lightly tapped his chest. "You're you. Stressors, paranoid tendencies, fear of rejection and all. Don't try to change it, just let it flow. And keep on working with Jim to learn to understand it all. That's it. You just need to understand yourself." She picked up Abby's carrier and delicately raised one eyebrow. "Write down any other questions you might have, and I'll try to answer them. If I can't, then you will ask Jim. And work with him."
"Yeah." Clint slowly nodded as Marlene walked off. Standing up, he glanced around thoughtfully. "Understand myself. Huh."
Clint leaned on the table in the Mess Hall and watched Abby as she waved one hand in front of her face. He had to grin at the curious look she was giving it. "It's your hand, Abs," he murmured, one hand reaching out to grab at her foot, the other busy shoveling food into his mouth. He ignored the longing looks from the recruits.
Across the table from him, Delores chuckled. "Thank you for lunch, Clint. You're leaving today?"
"Yeah." Clint nodded. "Week's long enough here with all them, and I only had that one situation with itching and no problems breathing, so Doctor James wants to see me." He waved his fork in the general direction of the recruits. "Only so much I can do to them, since I don't want to make people angry."
"Shame, I'm losing out on a babysitter." Marlene sighed. "I don't know what it is about you, but she loves you."
Clint grinned around a mouthful of food. "I'm just a big kid at heart. You all say so." He paused, thinking. "Usually in different terms, though. Beeks really isn't nice about that one, but I guess he's allowed."
"You are a bit of a pain, yes." Marlene nodded. "Incidentally, are you done and do you have some time? I'd like to take Abby outside for a little bit. Maybe go down to Battery Park and get some sun?"
"Not my fault that they can't handle a joke or two. Or that I went to the Italian place down the street for the three of us. And yeah, I've got about an hour." Clint glanced at his watch. "Actually, closer to two. And that's close enough to where I need to be."
"Good." Marlene stood up and beckoned to Clint. "Move it, mister."
Clint nodded. "Ten minutes, meet you at the front." He headed for the door with a smirk at a couple of the recruits he'd found to be the most nervous around him. He chuckled under his breath as they started staring at their meals.
"Thank you again for all the take-out." Marlene glanced over at Clint. "Now, you had a list for me?"
"Yeah." Sprawled out on his back, Clint was enjoying the sun. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. "Thought you'd forgotten."
Shaking her head, Marlene scanned the list. "Interesting questions, Clint. How much thought did you put into them?"
"Not a ton." Clint closed his eyes. "'Cause I've been having them for a while but didn't know how or who to ask."
"Okay. So. 'Why is your husband such an ass?'" Marlene sighed. "Please don't teach my daughter that sort of language."
"I watch what I say around kids." Clint was hoping that it wasn't a mistake to ask his questions. "Coulson gets upset otherwise, and their parents, and then I get in trouble."
"Good. So, Jim. Jim is Jim, Clint, and nothing can change that. He does have an ego, and nobody has challenged him the way you do. Not to mention, you frustrate him, because he feels like you're just playing games with him. I've told him that you're probably just like that, and that you're a hard nut to crack. Incidentally, I figured that out when I first met you." She reached over and lightly rapped Clint on the head. "Not to mention very stubborn and focused on protecting yourself. But you've let him in, right?"
"Yeah. Kinda. Mostly. He just always wants to talk about stuff that I don't want to. Does it really matter that I just want to keep kids safe?" Clint made a face. "I know I asked for help to deal with that but I'm not seeing what he's saying."
"Only if you go to extremes. What good does it do them if you're hurt or killed in the process?"
"Oh." Clint sat up and looked at Marlene thoughtfully. "Is that what he's been trying to tell me?"
"My older sister married a firefighter." The apparent non-sequitor had Clint blinking in confusion. "She says that a phrase that is tossed around is him first, crew members second, and everybody else third. Can that translate to your life?" Marlene glanced at Abby as she started to fuss. "And here, make my life a bit easier and feed her."
"Oh." Clint focused on how to correctly hold Abby. "I guess?"
Marlene had lost track of how many times she'd wished for a camera over the past week; watching a professional assassin being so gentle with her daughter was something that she'd never thought she'd see. And it was cute. "How?"
Clint didn't answer for a minute. "Because," he started. "Because I have to take care of myself first. I'm no good if I can't do my job. So I need to make sure I eat, sleep, work out, practice my shooting, and go to Medical if I'm hurt or sick. After that, I need to make sure the people I work with are okay because I need to be able to depend on them. And only then can I really worry about civilians?"
"It's a start." Marlene nodded. "It's also something you can think on some more later. Now, next question…" She looked at the list again. "You know something, Clint? I'm going to call my husband and tell him to get you a couple books. I have to confirm the titles, though, and that they're actually the ones that I'm thinking of. I think that reading them will help you out more than getting these answered, because the rest of these are all coming down to you simply learning to do two things. Accept yourself as not needing to be perfect, and learning how to work with what you perceive as personal flaws. That all falls under the category of learning how to understand just who you, Clint Barton, are."
"But-" Clint started.
"But," Marlene interrupted as she reached into her purse for a pen and notepad. "I'm going to write down every single personality trait on this list that you're worried about. And then I'm going to start you on a couple lists – what's good about each trait, and what's bad. Once you have those lists finished, you'll have to wait for the mail, because in about a week I'm going to send Jim a copy of the lists that I've made. He'll have you compare the two, and then I'm going to suggest that you think about how those two lists are different."
"Oh. Okay." Clint looked at Marlene. "That will help me with everything?"
"Yes." Marlene nodded firmly. "It will, but only if you put in the work. Otherwise it's just a waste of both our times. Because you're going to need to work on retraining your views on a few things, and that will only be successful if you want to. Do you?"
Clint looked back down at Abby. "Yeah. I do." He smiled. "Don't know if you're lucky or unlucky, Abs, to have both your parents being shrinks. But I think I like your mom's style better than your dad's." He glanced up at Marlene. "I really do, I think. I don't know why, but you're more comfortable to talk to. Beeks said that it was because you're not a guy, but I don't believe him."
"I like to tell myself that I'm the better shrink." Marlene chuckled lightly. "And you know what else? I'm used to working with people around your age who need a little push. Just like you do. Not to mention, I was trained in a different style than he was, and I think that my style works a little better for you. I'll tell Jim. And Clint?"
"Sometimes writing things down helps. Your dislike for Medical, for example. Try writing down just why you don't like it there. And then think of ways to deal with that, and why you think that way. Keep a journal, maybe." Marlene glanced at her watch. "What time did you need to start heading over for your flight back?"
"Now." Clint bent over and lightly kissed Abby's forehead. "Be good, you. Thanks, Marlene. You don't want to move to the Helicarrier?"
"Baby," Marlene said as she took her daughter back. "Big boat that is no place for a baby. No, I much prefer working with the recruits. And now that you know more about Jim, do you think that you'll be able to work with him a little better?"
"Yeah," Clint reluctantly said. "I'm guessing that after this, I shouldn't ask you stuff?"
"Not in a professional capacity, no." Marlene shook her head. "Because it wouldn't be appropriate, and doing that can cause more problems than it solves. Believe me, I'll be telling Jim that he needs to cool it a little, but I think you need to at least try to meet him halfway. He's only human, Clint, and this is a very big stressor that he'd like to resolve."
Standing up, Clint nodded. "I'll try. But that's all I can do, is try. And I'll try what you suggested, too, and if it works then I'll tell him and maybe see if we can figure something out." He grinned. "Haven't punched him yet, though. That's a good thing, right?"
"Please don't punch my husband, Clint." Marlene placed Abby back in her carrier and stood up. "It's not nice, and he doesn't know anything about how to take a punch." Giving Clint a hug, she nodded. "Now, get going."
"Doesn't know how to take a punch, right," Clint snorted as he picked up his bag. "He took me down once."
Marlene laughed. "I'm sure he had his reasons. Didn't he?"
"He did." Clint nodded uncomfortably before giving Marlene a small smile. "Although I think I want to learn how to do that, too. Just…not from him."
"Here's the thing about that, Clint," Marlene said. "There aren't any tricks. It's just about overwhelming somebody with numbers and getting lucky. I'm guessing that Jim just got lucky, because I have no doubt that you could have very seriously hurt him, if not killed him." She gave Clint a serious look. "Right?"
"Yes," Clint slowly agreed as he felt a cold trickle of fear run down his spine. "If I had a knife…" He looked at Marlene, horrified. "If I'd hurt him?"
"Sit down, Clint," Marlene ordered. "And look at me." Clint hurried to obey at her firm tone. "Now. You didn't. And if you'll let me, I'll talk to Jim and find out his side of the story." At Clint's almost frantic nod, she continued. "Because he doesn't try things like that unless he thinks that he'll be successful. Was he taking a risk? Yes. He was. And I'm sure that he knew that. Because from what you've told me, your training means that anything can be a weapon. What's the first thing you remember?"
"I was face down on the floor," Clint muttered. "He was laying on my back, talking at me. Giving me orders."
"Were you near one of your knives? Or anything that you could have used as a weapon?"
Clint slowly blinked. "Not my free hand. I had bare feet, and he was holding down my other arm with his legs."
"Could you have gotten to a weapon? Or anything that you could have used as one?"
"Not…not easily." Clint sagged down in relief. "He did that on purpose?"
Marlene nodded. "I never worked inpatient, but that's where he spent quite a bit of time. There are steps to take before the clinical staff have to get physical, but I have no doubt that he was involved in helping take down a combative patient at least once, and would have seen it a few other times. The goal, Clint, is safety. If he had even the slightest idea that it wouldn't have been safe for him, he would have been out the door and on the phone to either Security or Medical. Whoever he thought would have had the best chance to help calm you down, so probably both." Reaching out, she gently cupped Clint's cheek. "Clint, if that had been the case, you would've woken up in restraints. He did you a favor. Because if that had happened, your clearances would have been pulled, he would have been looking at an inquiry as to how he was working with you, and you would have been looking at weeks, if not months, of very intensive therapy. People who need physical take-downs like that usually have something more going on."
Clint shook his head. "I'd had a bad couple days. Darla died, then I found out that Coulson went missing and they didn't know where he was." He shrugged. "I didn't know what to do and got upset. But he's given me some ideas for coping techniques in case something like that happens again."
"Ahhh," Marlene breathed in understanding. "You were in a crisis situation. Okay. And then?"
"Then?" Clint stood up. "We found Coulson. It was Spring Break, so I was able to deal with my personal life without having to go to school, too. I finally chewed Coulson out because he was being an ass and it was either yelling back at him or breaking something. Two weeks before," he paused, responding to Marlene's tug on his wrist to sit back down, "Two weeks before finals started I went off to some little no-name hole-in-the-wall to track down some information and spent a week as the 'guest' of a bunch of crazy scientists." He snorted. "Their choice of words, not mine."
He stared at his foot. "Broke a couple bones in my foot and hurt my hand. Also had a few reactions to the experimental stuff I was injected with and nearly died."
Marlene shook her head with a sad smile. "And how are you doing after all that?"
"You're not my…oh. Is this a friend thing?" Clint shrugged. "Good. I flip out, have a nightmare or two, and then I'm cool. After all that allergy stuff, I let Meg and Coulson know that if they can't stay calm, they have to stay away because they were panicking and it was making me panic even more." He stood up. "But I really have to go, because the jets don't wait and I need to get back to the Helicarrier. Coulson called me this morning and said that there was something coming up and I need to start thinking about that, especially if Doctor James clears me. And I have to go make up finals."
Marlene pushed herself up and gave Clint another hug. "E-mail me. Maybe you can take the odd day to come and grab lunch with Delores and me?"
"I'd like that." Clint smiled shyly before spinning around and hurrying off.